...and it's not over yet. I am still madly, passionately, deeply, in love with them. I don't mind whether they are tall, short, fat or thin, young or old, tell the truth, or fiction. Books, books, books.
I grew up in a family that loved reading; we always had access to books. We were not poor, but neither was there a lot of money to spare for buying a constant supply of books. I can remember the day I was enrolled at the public lending library, which was a mere four or five minutes walk away from home, even for my chubby little six year old legs.
Back in the late 50's, my mother decided that I could read well enough to qualify to become a reader at the local library. It felt like such a privilege, an important step in becoming more like my very bookish, very bright, older brother, Steve. (Owl Wood wasn't around in those days).
The library was one large, quiet, gloomy room with very high shelving, lots of dark wood, and oh, so many books. Aladin's cave doesn't even begin to describe that place. I loved it.
The librarian was a woman and she commanded great respect from one and all, silence was the rule. Any necessary conversation with her was carried out in very hushed tones.
I wanted to be a librarian. It seemed like the most wonderful job in the world. The lending system was based on little cards and tickets. I think we were issued with two little ticket holders, which we had to hand in whenever we borrowed books. They were just little buff-coloured card corners with our name and the name of the library.
(I borrowed this image from www.1900s.org.uk.)
After browsing the children's books and making our selection we would take them over to the librarian and hand over our books and our tickets. She would then take the little card out of the pocket in the book, slip that into our ticket, and then stamp the book with the return date.
Our ticket was then filed - and oh how I ached to be able to do what she did as she neatly filed them all away alphabetically. It looked the greatest fun - more fun than the stamping of the date, in my opinion!!
I soon progressed from reading books about marmalade cats called Marmaduke (how I love those words which begin with mar... I don't know why!) to books about Milly Molly Mandy, stories about elves and pixies, etc. Anything and everything.
Somewhere along the line Ian (Owl Wood) was born, but that didn't stop Steve
and I from taking regular walks along to the library. By the way, Ian doesn't have a wart on his cheek, it's a mark on the photograph.
I progressed on to the Enid Blyton books, so frowned upon at one time, but such a delight to me. I adored the adventures of Mr Pink Whistle, then discovered the Secret Seven Adventures and lived their exciting lives with them.
Not long after Ian was born we moved to Hong Kong for a few years. I attended the army school at Victoria Barracks, but that is for another post. Back to the subject of libraries and books.
We joined the army wives library (even though my father was a civilian who worked for the RAF) and that was a whole new library experience. Much smaller, lighter, far less formal, children and parents could choose books and chat. Once books were selected we could go across the room and a waiter would serve us with drinks which Mother would pay for with a book of vouchers. All very different!
Of course, since then I have belonged to many different libraries and they have become computerised. The space allocated to books has been drastically reduced to allow for talking books, music, records, computers. Their opening hours are being reduced all the time and the number of books we can borrow at any one time is about 30, as though any of us could manage to carry 30 books around with us.
We live out in the countryside and there is a mobile library service which calls once a month. My husband and I are now the only people who use it from the village. To tell the truth, we use it because not using it would mean that we would lose it. Three elderly ladies from the village used to support it, but one has moved into Alford and uses the library there, and the other two appear at very irregular intervals.
It is one of those services which people can't be bothered with - but once the choice is not there they may feel differently. Grandson Harry has now been enrolled to help swell the numbers, he loves books.
I won't get into a gripe about the decline in library services, I really wanted to celebrate books and the large part that having access to books played in developing my love of them.
Apologies for going on so long, apologies for leaving so much out. I am trying to find a balance and I fear that this may turn into a multi-page post.